Alan Chartock: Plenty of Halloween fun to be had in 2 hour span


GREAT BARRINGTON — OK, now that the fire and hail stones have quieted down, let's review the Halloween issues in Great Barrington, the Disneyland of the aforementioned holiday.

I don't know how it happened but Hollenbeck Avenue on the Hill in Great Barrington has become the go-to neighborhood for candy and celebration. It's a lot of fun and it's wonderful to see the kids all dressed up, properly accompanied by their parents.

The children range in age from a few weeks old to teens from Simon's Rock around the corner. We gave out about 500 pieces of candy. Everyone was respectful and nice and if they forgot to say thank you, their parents reminded them. It was terrific.

Roselle got a mechanical witch and a mechanical skeleton who, when you pushed the button, danced to music coming out of the machines. The kids, particularly the younger ones, couldn't have cared less about the candy but stood transfixed in front of the mechanical dancers. They loved to push the buttons themselves. Priceless. Roselle wore a beautiful mask and I was issued a wig with devil's horns.

Before Halloween came and went, a great, courageous and sensible neighbor from up the street wrote a letter to our neighborhood listserv questioning why Great Barrington, seemingly alone, allocated two and a half hours to the trick-or-treat crowd while every other town set aside a good deal less time.

Hey, it's cold out there. When you have that many kids climbing up your steps you have to stay outside and shiver. Your hands freeze as if you were in the Klondike. As the great Parkinson instructed us, anything expands to the time allocated to it.

Manners go missing

I opined over the radio that I thought my neighbor had a point and shortly thereafter, the trouble began. People began writing to the listserv as if those of us who felt two and a half hours were too long were the collective Grinches who stole Halloween. Manners disappeared, claws were sharpened, and accusations were hurled.

The gist of the accusations was that we were out of line and we were stealing Halloween. There are a few parents who believe that they know more about parenting than anyone else. They suggested that those of us who wished to could close our doors and turn out our lights. At 7:30, that's exactly what we did, beating the town hours by a half an hour.

Hey, all my neighbor did was ask a question that made a lot of sense to many of us. No one wanted NO Halloween, so for those who turned a simple question into a major self-serving show of, "You people want to kill Halloween," I say, "Whoa, that ain't right." You've really got to suppress all that anger.

Hey, look, we all have to get along. We all have to appreciate other points of view. As my mom used to say, "There's no reason to take a tone."

Eyes on hotel plan

The question of whether or not to have a hotel on Bridge Street continues to percolate.

Some people are very upset but there are many of us who don't think the whole thing is such a bad idea. We are a tourist town; we need a first rate hotel; Jane Iredale would never let anyone put up anything that was unattractive; the owners of the new hotel have shown every consideration for compromise with their critics.

On the other hand, there are some troubling aspects to the whole plan. Clearly preservation efforts and rules have been ignored; traffic already is bad on the street; it's unclear what protections River Walk and our river would have.

So, let us be vigilant and monitor developments. If this is going to happen, we need to get things right this time.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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